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Aquatic centre study shows school swimming programs not enough to keep children safe

Aquatic centre study shows school swimming programs not enough to keep children safe
October 9, 2019

The majority of children who only learn to swim by attending intensive school swimming programs can't swim a year later according to new research from Deakin University

The world-first study into the learning and retention of swim and safety skills by Mornington Peninsula-based aquatic facilities operator Peninsula Leisure and Deakin University found that undertaking an intensive school swim program alone is not enough to keep Australian children safe, placing them at greater risk of drowning,

The year-long study, Swim Lesson Models: Effectiveness and Impact Study, found parents who solely relied on school swim programs overestimated their child’s swimming and water safety abilities.

Kate Moncrieff and Jacqui Peters, lecturers within Deakin University's School of Education, found children need weekly swimming instruction in addition to the five 45-minute sessions offered in most intensive school swimming programs, to maintain their swimming and water safety skills.

Primary school aged children who had established foundational swimming skills - such as gliding, kicking front and back and corresponding arm actions - and then only attended school intensive swimming programs without an additional weekly swimming program for the remainder of the year, tended to plateau or even lose the skills they had gained.

The best outcomes came from those who did a combination of weekly and intensive swimming lessons.

It also found that, while swimming is a crucial skill to learn in Australian culture, 36.7% of parents whose children participated in the study only intended to persist with lessons if their child expressed interest to continue.

Advising that the study reinforces just how important it is for parents to ensure children are learning to swim all year round, Peninsula Leisure Chief Executive Tim Gledhill stated “while intensive school swim programs are important, they lose their effectiveness as a stand-alone, and the study found children needed to attend more frequent swimming lessons to be able to retain essential swim and safety skills.

“85% of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the coast (so) this study is a timely reminder on the importance of learning to swim and maintaining regular practice to ensure our children remain safe. It also highlights the need to redesign the way we deliver learn-to-swim programs.”

The study found a combination of intensive school swim programs, in conjunction with regular lessons to be the most effective mode for swim skill retention. However, it also found the retention of skills learned in intensive school programs was level-dependent.

The findings have prompted the Deakin researchers to call for a review of school swimming programs to include the viability of expanding swimming programs beyond the current once yearly intensive school programs. This was shown to be extremely important for beginner and early skill stage swimmers.

Moncrieff advised “while intensive school swimming programs were important and effective, they lost their effectiveness as a stand-alone, and children needed to attend more frequent swimming lessons and practice in order to be able to swim to safe levels.

"We found that regular weekly swimming provided positive skill learning outcomes across all levels.

"In contrast to the school swimming intensives, the greatest impact of weekly swimming was experienced by early learners.

“Extending the accessibility to swimming lessons beyond intensive school swim programs is important to ensure all children, no matter what level, are retaining these vital skills.

“The findings have prompted us to call for a review of the State’s school swim programs to ensure they meet the development needs of Victorian children.”

Images courtesy of Peninsula Leisure.

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